Tuesday, March 4, 2014

rambling, as is usual these days

And so we stumble onward, with a sick dog and in the eighth month of pregnancy. Tomorrow we start our childbirth classes, about which Berowne is excited and I am rather less so. They are SO late at night! You must understand that even before getting pregnant I was an incredibly early retirer, so that I could rise at an ungodly hour as well. When another pregnant woman said something to me along the lines of sometimes being so tired now that she goes to bed at (gasp!) ten-thirty, I laughed and laughed. Until meeting a guy in a band, I hadn't seen ten-thirty at night in years; but on nights when we have these classes, we might not be getting home until around then. This will be a challenge for me, to remain engaged and good-natured when nine o'clock finds me in a hospital conference room and still wearing real pants. And I will probably be the oldest woman there by far (I definitely was when we attended the "Meet the Doctors" event last week, and had a whole "you are babies YOURSELVES, what are you DOING," internal commentary going [answer: having babies while they still have the energy for real pants]).

Actually, I'm sure it will be fun. I'll feel boatloads of guilt about leaving Darcy alone in the evenings, but it's only once a week. (Something I have not been able to do since Darcy got sick: look at cute animals on the internet. Darcy is prettier than ALL of them and IT'S NOT FAIR.) 

Read lately:

Dust Tracks on a Road, by Zora Neale Hurston. Her autobiography, and very good reading. Dreamy and magical, and a little bit arrogant with her own skill, but in a justified way.

The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe, by Peter Godwin. Aiiieee. Horror reporting. Very well done and very engaging, but so hard to read.

Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, by Nathaniel Philbrick. Philbrick's first book, and not nearly as good as his later stuff, but still enjoyable.  

The Kids Will Be Fine: Guilt-Free Motherhood for Thoroughly Modern Women, by Daisy Waugh. This was my Early Reviewers book for the month. It arrived in the mail yesterday, and I took it into the bath with me and finished it within the hour. It's that kind of short, delightful book. Waugh is British, and has a very British sensibility when it comes to not tolerating bullshit (think Caitlin Moran, though not quite as brilliant or amusing). The book does skim over pregnancy policing and spend too much time (I think) on pressure to participate in the child's school career, but that's where Waugh is right now in her life, so it makes sense. I wanted more about what applies to me now, not what I'll be dealing with in eight years. But I will definitely hang onto this book and return to it as applicable. It made me laugh a lot, and did succeed in making me feel less guilty about a lot of stuff: Waugh is especially funny about the pressure to have a drug-free childbirth, which I have definitely felt increase throughout my pregnancy.

My attitude on that topic had previously been an open-minded, "Let's see how it goes," because I have no idea how painful the experience will actually be and so I can't predict what I will or won't need. But then I started doing my childbirth reading, and finding that almost all the literature a) says that more and more women are going drug-free and b) phrases the alternative option in some really unfortunate way like, "remember there will be pain medication available if you turn out to be one of those women who just can't handle it." Of course this resulted in my Competitive Nonsense kicking in, and I can picture myself asking the nurse offering the epidural, "But does the average woman need one at this point? Or do they usually go longer? Or go without entirely? Because I have to measure up to, or ideally surpass, a total stranger in terms of my stoicism; that is what is important right now," and Berowne will say, "Actually, honey, right now you appear to be in agony," and I'll say, "ARE YOU IMPLYING THAT I AM WEAK," and it will all be ridiculous.

There really is a huge amount of pressure to avoid interventions of any kind, which is fine as far as it goes, but the actual discussions of this tend to conflate much more serious medical interventions like a forceps birth or emergency c-section with the taking of any pain medication whatsoever. This is not helpful: the situations are not comparable, and the scolding mantra of "this is a natural process and women got through it naturally for centuries," is pretty awful, given that there's always the implied, "SO WHY CAN'T YOU," tacked on the end. I don't know if I can or not! I won't know until it's actually happening! (Also, women didn't always get through it, not by a long shot.) And whence the shame about pain meds in this particular situation? For twenty-five years I've had, every month, the most mind-bogglingly painful menstrual cramps imaginable, and I have never felt shame, or had to receive grief, about taking pain meds for them. But you get into the realm of childbirth, and suddenly requesting pain meds would be "unnatural", as if a mother who doesn't sufficiently suffer for her child is cheating in some way. As if they'll put an asterisk on your medical chart to indicate that the record is controversial: "Did technically produce a child from her body, but was kind of a wuss about it."

And I shouldn't even be putting "unnatural" in quotes, because that's exactly what a medicated childbirth is considered. When a woman says she had a natural childbirth, she means an unmedicated vaginal birth, and it's implicit in that phrase that anything else is unnatural. We have got to come up with a different word for unmedicated vaginal birth, so that we can stop telling women who had epidurals or c-sections or inductions that the production of their children into the world literally went against nature.  

The fact that I want to be stronger than anyone else is my own problem. Spartan Boy and so forth. I'm sure I'll get over it once I'm in the actual situation. 

My temper is like string too short to be saved these days. I cannot WAIT to be able to work out again, and by this point it's not at all about vanity. It's about the fact that, though I can and do practice prenatal yoga, it has been eight months (during the first trimester I was first far too nervous about being newly pregnant to work out strenuously in midsummer, and then far too nauseated) since I did the kind of workout that leaves you pouring sweat and with endorphins basically shooting out the top of your head, and for my emotional health I have long needed that kind of workout about three times a week. That is how I have successfully processed and eliminated negativity for years, and now when work is toxic I go home without any form of release available to me. I tried taking a long walk with Bingley the other day, but a) only one of us is socially permitted to pee every ten feet, and both of us needed to, and b) Berowne reported that Darcy was made very, very unhappy by being left behind. So that didn't achieve much.

This too shall pass. At the moment I feel like I have my country's anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it; and I'm up a half-dozen times a night; but soon enough I won't believe that I considered this period to lack free time or rest. It's all relative.    

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